The wisdom of practitioners
Do not doubt the impact of being a doer
If you don't know the story of Ronald Read, you should; this guy was the epitome of a "simple man." He grew up in the early 1900s, worked at a gas station for a quarter century, ran his own small business for some time, and passed away. What makes this dude's life noteworthy? At the end of his life – though his facade was that of a poor and quiet man – he had amassed over 8 million dollars to donate to his local hospital and library. He was not well read or prestigious, but had gained investing acumen and outperformed professionals by practicing the skill of investing over a lifetime rather than dwelling on theory. I have known many "simple" folk who have been similarly rich – not just in money, but in domain-specific wisdom – outperforming those with prestige and credentials. We often underestimate the the wisdom of practitioners.
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”
- Brian O'Driscoll
The only way to gain wisdom in this life is by doing. It is much easier to think, theorize, and speculate, but all the punnet squares in the world can't get you the applied knowledge that working in a hospital can. Those who possess the deepest knowledge of how to live a good life are often found living simple lives and engaging in meaningful pursuits. I think this is largely because they have realized how much is to be gained through having gratitude for that which we overlook.
There is a trope of the blue collar worker who is given instructions to do something entirely ineffective (often from their manager who sits high up the ladder of bureacracy.) The boss will come up with some untested, but legitimate sounding theory to blindly prescribe to the masses. Occurences like this might be well intentioned, but the lack of actual experience in a given field causes these bureacrats and theorists to overlook many of the nuances that someone who is "lower" understands more deeply; changes to complex systems are often harmful unless stress tested and observed over time.
Science does wonders for society, and the scientific method is incredible powerful, but we often put too much trust in ideas and theory, underestimating the profoundity of simple solutions. The thing about making decisions without rigorous, long-term testing is that they are SO likely to be flawed. The universe we inhabit is unfathomably complicated; it is usually a good idea to assume that we are rife with blindspots and riddled with biases. When a new idea is applied to a complex system there is often a small anticipated upside, and a potentially huge and unknown downside. Examples of this are seen frequently in the pharmaceutical and medical industries; a medication or procedure will be applied to fix an ailment or symptom while causing unpredictable damage elsewhere. This is in no way a call to do away with pharmacy and medicine, but just a reminder that the best solutions are often the simple ones.
We know a lot more than we think we do. Nowadays it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that we are flooded with, so we tend to let others who seem more qualified dictate the way that we live our lives. We follow their prescriptions on health, money, and pretty much all other areas of our lives just because they have Ph.D in their bio. We neglect to acknowledge how common it is for two highly educated domain experts to have the exact opposite opinion on things though. At the end of the day, the things you will become the most wise in are the things that you try out yourself. The wisest among us is often not the most prestigious or decorated, but one who is a doer. Become a doer. Do not underestimate the wisdom of practitioners.
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